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Mercedes Championships
La Costa Resort & Spa
Carlsbad, California
8th - 11th January 1998

Par 72 Prize Money $1.7 million

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Mickelson holds off Woods and O'Meara to win by one shot

Carlsbad, California. 11th January, 1998 - Phil Mickelson held off hard-charging former champions Tiger Woods and Mark O'Meara today to post his second victory at the $1.7 million Mercedes Championships, winning the season-opening event by one stroke at La Costa Resort & Spa.

Mickelson, who also captured this tournament in 1994, shot a 4-under-par 68 today to ward off Woods and O'Meara, who were paired together and fired 8-under 64s. They briefly shared the lead with Mickelson.

"It was a pretty exciting day out there," O'Meara said. "Tiger shot a real easy eight under par."

O'Meara's 64 was pretty good, too.

But Mickelson, the only player in the elite field with four rounds in the 60s, had four birdies over a five-hole stretch bridging the front and back nines to regain sole possession of the top spot.

The 27-year-old left-hander stumbled with a bogey at the 14th hole but responded with his seventh birdie of the afternoon at the par-4 15th, enabling him to take a two-stroke lead to the final hole, which he bogeyed.

"This was an important day for me," Mickleson said. "I knew some guys were going to go low, but I didn't know who they were going to be. My only thought of the day was do whatever it takes. I didn't know how I was swinging, I wasn't worried about anything. The only thought I had was to do whatever it took to win."

Mickelson claimed the $306,000 first prize with a four-round total of 17-under 271. He has 12 career PGA Tour victories, including eight in the first three months of the year. He has won seven times in West Coast events, three in California and four in Arizona.

Woods, who won last year's rain-shortened event in a playoff, eagled the par-5 ninth hole and birdied No. 10 to join Mickelson at 14-under. Woods's Florida neighbor, O'Meara, the 1996 champion, made it a three-way tie with birdies on six of the first 10 holes. O'Meara sank a 20-yard bunker shot on No. 10 for birdie, then watched Woods sink his birdie putt to match it.

But Woods and O'Meara, playing four holes ahead of Mickelson, each had only two birdies the rest of the way. Mickelson caught fire with a birdie on the par-5 ninth hole, adding birdies at Nos. 10, 12 and 13 to move to 18-under. Mickelson then bogeyed the par-3 14th after hitting his tee shot into a greenside bunker, but he came back with a birdie on the next hole to regain his two-stroke advantage.

"I saw Tiger's eagle and thought he's one of the best closers we've got on Tour and my mindset changed. I had to attack and make birdies," Mickelson said.

Woods belted a 285-yard drive on No. 9 that got no roll in the soaked fairway, then hit a 3-wood from 266 yards to 30 feet and sank the eagle putt to pull within a stroke of Mickelson, who was on No. 7 at the time.

"When I got to five under par, I figured the game was on,'' Woods said, referring to his 31 on the front nine, a number that O'Meara matched. "But Mark and I agreed we had to get to 18 under to win."

Woods's last birdie came on 15. Both he and O'Meara failed to birdie the par-5 17th. Woods's approach from 121 yards came up 30 feet short of the hole, and he two-putted for par. O'Meara knocked his approach a little closer, but he two-putted for par from about 25 feet. O'Meara sank a long birdie putt on 18 to tie Woods, who got up and down for par from behind the green, for second place.

First-round leader John Cook and Nick Price of Zimbabwe were fourth at 13-under 275, followed by two strokes by Sweden's Gabriel Hjertstedt, Stewart Cink, Mark Calcavecchia and Duval, who won his final three starts in 1997. Duval stumbled to a 1-over 73 today and failed in his bid to become the first golfer in 45 years to win four straight PGA Tour starts.

Paired with Mickelson and trailing by one stroke at the start of the day, Duval missed out on an opportunity to take the lead on the first hole. Mickelson three-putted for bogey, but Duval missed an 18-inch birdie putt. Duval then missed a 4-footer for birdie on par-4 second hole . He missed a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 3, then had a 10-footer on the fourth hole lip out.

"When you miss that many short ones, there's not much you can do,'' Duval said. "It was frustrating.''


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